Introversion may seem like a substantial liability in our brash, competitive, extroverted American culture. Each citizen is expected to be effortlessly outgoing, interact with strangers all the time, attend big Great Gatsbyesque parties as much as possible, and absolutely love all of it, under the rubric that it is good for everyone. Unfortunately, when confronted with the question of social interaction, many Americans default to the idea that extroversion is easier for them to deal with and is therefore better. Or maybe that it is familiar and is therefore correct. No. Incorrect.
In fact, many statuses and abilities that are respected and admired in American culture come more naturally to introverts. The ability to sit alone and study like an information officer. The rich inner world of a writer, created by thought and imagination. The sensitivity and empathy needed to understand someone else’s experience like in psychology or therapy. These natural capacities all come more easily to introverts. Writers, painters, scholars, coders, inventors, some of the greatest thinkers of our century have been introverts. Creative, thoughtful, and maybe more often than some would like, quiet.
The truth is, our society needs both extroverts AND introverts. And what is actually best for everyone is for each group to develop and nurture their unique perspective and natural proclivities. Extroverts are constantly encouraged and praised for their need to always be socializing no matter the part of life. Introverts should receive the same acceptance and praise. We need introverts to develop their strengths too, and we should make them feel like they can contribute their unique passions, skills, and interests, and that their minds are of value. The fact is, it doesn’t take a loud yelling voice to set world records. It doesn’t take seeking out big parties to challenge the status quo. You don’t have to love the constant company of others to have great talent. Nor do you have to want continual social interaction to simultaneously have the heart to hunt your wildest dreams. Both extroverts and introverts can do these things, and for the richest, best, and most culturally interesting society, we should have strong extroverts and strong introverts. Let’s honor individuality, and encourage healthy personal development for each set of skills.
Both extroversion and introversion are appealing for different reasons. Extroverts are generally brash, exciting, loud, and easy to talk to. Introverts are generally thoughtful, creative, sensitive, and thought-provoking. Can extroverts be creative? Of course there are many creative extroverts. Can introverts be brash? Of course, this happens all the time. Let’s not force extroverts to sit still, and let’s not force introverts to yell.
Introvert readers: don’t force yourselves into boxes built by those who don’t understand your needs or believe they know better than you do about your strengths. Instead, give yourself the alone time you need to re-energize your spirit, to process, to think/feel, and to create. Don’t make yourself believe that big group gatherings are great just because they have always been done. Small groups are great, too. And alone time, during which you are comfortable exploring the world with your rich thoughts and feelings, that is maybe even better.
Extrovert readers understand: Because an introvert is being quiet does not mean that they have nothing to add and nothing inside them–Quite the opposite actually. The introvert you sit next to is probably being quiet because the world inside them is enormous and full of activity. It is quite likely they are quiet to balance what is going on in their head.
Introvert and extrovert readers: Learn from each other. Introverts can learn from extroverts without repressing and fighting who they are. Extroverts can learn from introverts without requesting the introvert adjust their communication style. You can learn from each individual on this planet, and the world is a happier and better place when all members of society are encouraged to do what makes them at their best.
Why then, does our society prefer extroverts, and make introverts feel like they have a lot to work on and change? Perhaps this can be attributed to our culture. And as the bestselling writer (introvert) Jonathan Safran Foer once wrote, “Culture is just a fancy word for you do what your grandmother told you.” Let’s be progressive and innovative, and encourage all, rather than just some.
P.S. Here are few famous introverts!
Do you identify as an introvert or an extrovert? How do you cope with socially challenging situations?
Also by Anastasia: 13 Books to Read When You Need a Female Hero
Related: Go Out–Or Stay In? An Introvert’s Dilemma
How to Build Your Professional Brand as an Introvert
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